Feature Article - January 2019
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Plan to Recover

Disaster Recovery for Parks & Recreation Areas

By Deborah L. Vence

Resume Normal Operations

For sure, one of the most challenging jobs following any natural disaster is returning to normal operations and knowing how to accomplish that.

Michelet suggests, for example, that before you repair anything, that you document the damage the way FEMA requires, or make the decision that you will cover the costs yourself.

"If facilities are unsafe, make certain the public is aware of the danger and stays away until all of the repairs are made," she said. "At first, use the facilities that are operable to house emergency camps, recovery supplies, emergency equipment, entertainment for shelter inhabitants—any way that makes sense for the facility and that will aid in the recovery. Promote what you are doing on social media, news releases and your website.

"Once the initial shock is over and people need a diversion, start promoting your facilities as places where people can go to take a break from gutting houses, picking up debris, rebuilding or whatever they are doing to rebuild the community. Remind the community that nature helps with the healing process and exercise is even more necessary during these times to stay healthy and active," Michelet said. "In a few months, you can resume your typical promotions as a step toward helping your community [to] get back to a semblance of normalcy.

"Parks and recreation agencies can help in ways people might not think of," she added, "such as bringing mobile recreation units to shelters as long as they are open, giving children fun, healthy activity while providing parents a chance to grieve privately and make all of the phone calls and meetings it takes to get out of a shelter and back into a home."

Wright suggested to "Plan ahead by having a city or department disaster plan in place and follow your disaster plan procedures. Consider the two areas that are involved in resuming operations: facilities management and user experience.

Facilities management:

  • Work with your purchasing departments before hurricane season to secure prepositioned contracts which set firm pricing for emergency services after a storm.
  • Make sure you understand FEMA's documentation process and the requirements. Take pictures of your facilities before the event, immediately following the event, during the repairs and after the repairs are completed.
  • Use FEMA documents from day one when recording labor hours, equipment rentals and materials/supplies purchases. Download the FEMA Public Assistance and Policy Program Guide and read.

From the recreational user's perspective:

  • Determine which programs will have to be cancelled and when they can be reinstated.
  • Determine if refunds are needed or credits will be given for the next programming period.
  • Ensure that all recovery and program implementation timelines are approved by your facility and green space crews.
  • Communicate with your users regarding site reopening and resumption of programming dates and times.